If you’re looking to make hay with the latest version of The Transporter, then letting loose over an extra-large popcorn to close out the summer provides all the refueling needed to get back in the theater for a reboot. But knowing this, Hollywood has left you with a fourth film in a franchise, The Transporter: Refueled, that sputters around and off the road, just like when the second or third films weren’t the charm either.
Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones) replaces Jason Statham as the man who delivers the packages and pledges to never look inside. The other basics also still apply for this Frank Martin. No names and the deal doesn’t change – all while looking damn good doing it in a car that seems poised to defy the laws of physics.
However, the similarities to the original end there. Despite the 2002 feature being a bit light on plot, the characters were compelling enough to stick with the story, roll with the action, and be moderately uplifted by the mismatched romance that was buoyed largely by Statham’s reluctant humor.
In this attempt from director Camille Delamarre, the viewer cares so little about the wooden characters that it’s hard to care if they actually survive the contrived car chases.
It’s a pretty tall order, given that the villainesses in Frank’s transit are seeking revenge against their human trafficking overlords – Radivoje Bukvic and Anatole Taubman serving as the lead antagonists. Of course, getting payback requires strong female characters who are efficient, equally as ruthless, and stacked with plenty of brains on top of their good looks.
Watching Angelina Jolie wield weaponry and strut her stuff in thrillers such as Salt or Wanted evokes that sense without uttering a word. But watching this quartet of avenging angels, who refer to themselves as “Musketeers,” move through the beautiful French Riviera and among stereotypical bad guys makes you wonder if they could navigate midtown during rush hour.
Nonetheless, Anna (Loan Chabanol) and the other Musketeers (Gabriella Wright, Tatiana Pajkovic, Wenxia Yu) enlist Frank, and the deal seems to involve delivering two packages. But once they are ready to put Frank into action, the girls quickly alter the deal and get the Transporter to go along by kidnapping his father.
Thus, Frank is forced to take part in a series of innovative robberies against the traffickers in hopes that the vile offenders will be emasculated enough to completely forget how they established a global criminal endeavor. Once hooked, the loose confederation of bad guys hopefully will succumb to finger (or gun pointing) orchestrated by this female syndicate in search of their long lost innocence.
But here the basic premise of the series doesn’t get the unraveling that makes the character so appealing. Like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca or a host of other like-minded movie characters, Frank’s jaded idealism causes him to delve back and forth between the legal and illegal – only to have his good intentions get the better of him. Frank can’t help but look inside the package, and before he knows it, he’s sticking his neck out.
This Frank never really makes that journey. He’s mostly operating to save his father, and the clumsy way the film tries to force the formula on you at the end doesn’t fly.
The filmmakers take the same liberty in regards to the attraction that must emerge and effectively moves the plot along in the original. Long, sleek legs at the ready, Anna’s leer as the deal is arranged tells us that she knows what’s under the hood long before Frank takes his shirt off, but not even Cary Grant could get a girl to so obviously tip her hand.
It shouldn’t be a shock then that no real depth emerges in the relationship and ending up in bed together amounts to nothing more than a glorified hook up.
However, the screenplay does have some highlights where Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and Luc Besson had to feel pretty good about how some of the dialogue looked on paper. A number of funny lines are on hand for the former Game of Thrones star to shine, Skrein just does not deliver them.
This in stark contrast to his predecessor, Skrein’s costars aren’t any better – save Ray Stevenson in the father role.
The chase scenes do not come to the rescue either. The filmmakers visualized and mapped out the car sequences using 3D computer generation but claimed to avoid using too much CGI. Even so, the chases seem cartoonish and can’t help but make you think that there’s a lot of pixel activity superposed over a slow driving Audi S8.
The fight sequences also looked off. You feel too close to the action – not giving enough room to get a full picture of the bare knuckles and pipes.
In the end, this Transporter might have again been able to survive a sketchy plot, and even the less than effective action, if the actors had actually shown up. But this is another sequel that ends up with as much ethanol in the tank as in your popcorn bucket, and after three strikes, fans might want to finally put down the stuff.